By Stephen Leonard
“He presented himself alive to them after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3
There were forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. In that time, He purposefully provided an abundance of evidence that not only was His tomb now empty, but He was indeed risen from the dead, and fully alive forevermore. Death was truly vanquished.
Of course, skeptics have continued to tell us there is no evidence the resurrection ever occurred, at least not physically. Nonsense. The first skeptics could have easily closed the mouths of all those who celebrated Jesus’ victory over death with one simple thing: produce the body of the crucified Christ for the world to see. But they could not, even with the power of all of Rome behind them.
A cohort of Roman soldiers guarded the tomb after securely sealing the massive stone to the garden tomb entrance. Upon threat of death, they did not flee from their job to which they had been ordered. They did afterwards, however, pass on a truly unbelievable lie, for a generous bribe, saying His disciples came and stole His body. Really? In front of sixteen Roman armed guards? It doesn’t pass the smell test, as they say.
Apparently, there was a frantic, but thorough search for the body for a time after the resurrection. All to no avail. Even those who bribed the soldiers knew good and well something very unique and powerful had taken place in the wee hours of Sunday morning; all before the eyes of terrified in-a-fearful-trance soldiers guarding the tomb; and under the threat of losing their lives if they failed in their orders. The Jewish authorities who paid the bribe convinced Pilate the soldiers were innocent of failing to fulfill his orders.
One of the reasons Jesus’ disciples were in such fearful hiding after the resurrection is they were told by many others and witnessed themselves the frantic search by Roman soldiers ordered by Pilate to locate Jesus’ body. They were sought for arrest and possibly torture. But there was no dead body to locate. Jesus was alive and appeared to His disciples, hiding behind locked doors, on the very day of His resurrection.
He walked and ate with two of His disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Earlier, He had spoken to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and some of the other women. He appeared to Peter separately. A week later, He again met the disciples behind the same locked doors.
He then enjoyed breakfast together with seven of His disciples on the beach of the Sea of Galilee. The Apostle Paul tells us He appeared to more than 500 people during these forty days. He gave us an abundance of evidence He was alive and carried the scars in His body of His torture and crucifixion. He then ascended into Heaven before their eyes forty days after leaving His tomb empty.
Just as there is abundant historical evidence, Jesus truly lived and had a public ministry in first-century Palestine, that He was arrested, tried, and crucified, the facts of His resurrection firmly stand before the gaze of the world. Thus billions of His adherents throughout the world celebrate Easter every year. It is not a lie that motivates them. Only the truth inspires such a huge number of believers from every part of society to vigorously and faithfully celebrate their risen Lord on this day, every year. A lie never stands in the face of the world’s fierce scrutiny.
You serve and worship a risen Lord Jesus Christ!
“Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, Just because He lives!”
(Chorus of the William Gaither hymn, “Because He Lives,” 1971)